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April 19, 2010

European Flights Slow in Resuming

British airspace was reopened Tuesday night. A British Airways flight from Vancouver, Canada touched down at London's Heathrow Airport for the first time in almost a week.

Flights were allowed to take off throughout the day from Paris, Madrid, and Amsterdam.

German officials have also said they will reopen airspace Wednesday. Some planes have been allowed to fly through Germany at low altitude.

The World Meteorological Organization says it appears the worst impacts from the volcanic eruption in Iceland are over.  The WMO says the huge volcanic ash cloud, which has crippled global air travel for almost a week, is dissipating and a change in wind pattern is likely to blow the cloud away from Europe.

The World Meteorological Organization reports Iceland's volcanic eruptions seem to be changing to a non-explosive type of eruption. While ash is still being ejected, WMO says lava now is flowing steadily from the volcano.

And, this, says WMO's Chief of the Aeronautical Meteorology Division, Herbert Puempel, is good. "It is typically interpreted as a sign that the worst is over in terms of the atmosphere.  It can be very dangerous for the people living near the volcano, of course," he said.

Puempel says there are several types of outflows from a volcano, such as lava.  He says the melting glacier can also produce something called a Lahare.  

"A Lahare would be a mixture of ash, silt, rock that together with the melted water would rush down the side of the volcano.  But, that is all a very localized disaster and no longer would be a problem for aviation," he said.



WMO says other positive signs from a meteorological point of view are emerging.  It predicts the high pressure system over Iceland that has been causing so many problems, will give way to a fairly strong low-pressure system.  This is set to happen Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  

Puempel says the low pressure-system over Iceland will result in rain.  "So, if you have rain, most of the ash that is kept below the raining cloud, which is typically three-four kilometers will be washed out anyway," he said.  "Any remaining stuff in the atmosphere will be deflected further north towards the Arctic.  So, from a meteorological point of view and from a geophysical point of view, the second part of the week, towards the weekend, all indicators are very, very positive."  

Puempel says for now, there is nothing on the charts that would make him  nervous about the coming weekend.  Unless one of Iceland's neighboring volcanoes decides to blow or some other exceptional catastrophic event happens, he says the coming weekend should be a good one.